By Rosie Digout | Aboriginal Initiatives Manager
Rosie Digout is leading Startup Canada’s next initiative to support and promote Aboriginal entrepreneurship by empowering and equipping Aboriginal individuals and business owners with all the requirements to become successful entrepreneurs and leaders of their communities. Rosie, an entrepreneur herself, owns a digital marketing company that provides workshops, training and consultancy services to her clients.
The Aboriginal Entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Canada. According to Census Canada, there are more than 37,000 self-employed Aboriginal (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) people in Canada, up from just over 27,000 in 2001 – an increase of 38%. During this period, the rate of growth of self-employed Aboriginal people was 5 times that of self-employed Canadians overall (7%).
Starting a business may seem especially overwhelming if you are unsure where to get advice or answers to questions. Aboriginal business owners often face the same challenges that non-aboriginal people face when starting their business, such as: managing issues related to financing, cash flow, budgeting and payroll.
However Aboriginal business owners also face unique challenges. Aboriginal entrepreneurs rely primarily on their own resources for both start-up and ongoing financing, and access to financing is considered one obstacle to growth. Many Aboriginal entrepreneurs are navigating their business planning (or growth) without outside advice or support. Perhaps many are unaware of what services/support that are available to them. Most importantly, Aboriginal business owners are looking for answers to further both their personal and business development skills.
Startup Canada has a vast interest in supporting Aboriginal participation in the nation’s economy by encouraging, supporting and promoting the growth and development of Aboriginal entrepreneurship. Over the last couple of months, Startup Canada has embarked on developing a strategy to support and promote Aboriginal entrepreneurship on a national level. This initiative, called Startup Circle, is based on a response to the call-to-action from the Aboriginal Community during last year’s Startup Canada’s National Tour (more than 20,000 entrepreneurs in 40 communities).
Startup Circle’s goal is to be the national leader in Aboriginal entrepreneurship; its blog will provide articles and share resources that are relevant to the Aboriginal business community. By providing this much needed content, will hope to inspire Aboriginal to start their own business. Startup Circle will provide an opportunity for Aboriginal Entrepreneurs to build stronger networks – nationally, provincially and locally. Building stronger networks will lead to sharing of expertise and knowledge among and between Aboriginal businesses. Startup Circle will share success stories of Aboriginal businesses.
With any sustainable initiative, building and strengthening relationships is vital. Startup Circle will continue to develop and build relationships with all government parties, Aboriginal governments and communities, Aboriginal organizations, and other interest parties in supporting and encouraging Aboriginal business development. As well, Startup Circle will have an Advisory group. Members of the Advisory group will be effective Aboriginal business leaders, who have been selected to help advise a business owner regarding any number of business issues, including marketing, sales, financing, and expansion.
It is clear that the time is right to enhance the creation, development, support, and promotion of Aboriginal entrepreneurs and small businesses in Canada.